Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Cutting Remark

It is nearing Bastille Day, Gentle Readers, and, in that spirit, the Amateur Historian wishes to draw your attention to Charles Henri Sanson, the man who owned and operated the guillotine in Paris.

Charles Heri Sanson had hoped to be a doctor and was averse to his family's profession, particularly as he had been kicked out of a convent school in Rouen because his father was the national executioner. However, his father became paralyzed and Sanson had to take up the gruesome trade.

However, he is best known for his work with the guillotine from 1792-1795, when his son took over the position. Charles Henri was a strong proponent of the guillotine, both out of humanitarian principles and professional pride (his sword grew dull during repeated executions, the cost of repair was unfairly placed on the executioner, who owned the weapons of execution, and the physical exertion was likely to result in accidents). It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte once asked Sanson if he could sleep well after having executed 3,000+ people.

Sanson replied, "If emperors, kings, and dictators can sleep well, why shouldn't an executioner?"

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